When Monkey was 2 we tried a couple of times to use “time-outs.” They didn’t go very smoothly and they felt like a monsterous waste of time. Two minutes to two year old Monkey was like a decade, he simply could not sit still that long and therefore his timeouts became games of cat and mouse. Which he enjoyed….sort of the exact opposite of what we wanted. We gave up.
Then last fall we went to an FX Conference in Connecticut where Tracy and Mouse discussed how to use time 0uts effectively for kids with FX. If you haven’t seen the article, look here for their “Ten Rules of time-out.” Duhdee really took the lead here because he does most of the day-to-day parenting while I work and he has found it to be very effective. Umma gives warning after warning until she wants to scream…and never thinks of it. At least that was how it went until this past vacation.
At home we live on the second floor. The only time we use the stairs is when we are leaving or coming home. Monkey would never think to play on those stairs. At camp our bedroom is on the second floor. We were up and down the stairs more times than I can count, each day. Monkey was a big fan of walking up and down the stairs and we don’t restrict him from doing so when he needs to. If he needs to go get a book from upstairs and bring it down, you won’t hear a peep out of us. As he felt more comfortable navigating the stairs he started walking up and down them just to walk up and down them. He responded well to verbal corrections however.
Then my aunt and uncle stopped by to visit. New people meant he wanted to escape, so he would climb up the stairs then come back down to peek again. He did this a couple times and we asked him to stop. He continued doing it. Duhdee stood up and physically redirected him a couple of times. Monkey thought that was FUNNY! He stood at the base of the stairs, looking at us, then he would smile and set his foot on the bottom stair. As soon as he got either a verbal correction or as soon as Duhdee stood to guide him away he would bolt up the stairs. Laughing.
Finally, Umma had just about enough. Duhdee left the room for a few minutes and Monkey started up with the stair nonsense again. He was standing by the stairs giggling and I looked at him and said, “If you put your foot on that step, you are going in time-out.” Immediately the smile disappeared. He stood looking at me with the most incredulous expression on his face. Everyone in the room was struggling to keep a straight face. He maintained eye contact for a beat and then walked from the room giving me the stink-eye while calling out “Deee?!” Once he was gone I broke down in giggles, it was comical really. BUT it was also a breakthrough for both of us. I know the threat of a time-out works. He tested me the next morning and was, once again, incredulous at the threat and the fact that I followed through. When the time-out was over, though, he did not go back to the behaivor.
Score one for Umma!